Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Feather Brained: Bob's Birding Book

Hi Folks!

As you know, I've been hard at work on Book 3. Right in the middle of my efforts, though, Bob Tarte's publisher sent me a copy of his brand-new book, Feather Brained. I'm not one to pass up a Bob Tarte book, or a free book, for that matter, so I set my keyboard aside and took up Bob's birding book. I read the whole book in less than 5 days, and am happy to report that I enjoyed it immensely. The following is my review.

If Bob Tarte wrote about something other than animals - the political machinations of the European Union, say, or the mating rituals of New Guinea aborigines - his books would still be a delight to read because Bob injects so much of himself into the pages. He makes an art form of laziness, and his short attention span is legendary. Indeed, Bob's pokes at himself are some of the best parts of all four of his books. One of the funniest bits in Feather Brained is how he casually mentions, over the course of 198 pages, the numerous pairs of binoculars he purchased, the price of which continued to increase commensurately along with his interest in birds.

Bob utilizes those binoculars with a deft touch as he plods through woods, swamps, fields, and the occasional waste-water facility, in search of the perfect bird. I'm not sure he ever actually found it, but he certainly saw a large enough variety of feathered creatures to keep his chaotic mind occupied for more than the usual minute or two.

While the subtitle of Feather Brained is My Bumbling Quest to Become a Birder & Find a Rare Bird on My Own, Bob is rarely alone in his search: wife Linda actually started Bob on the birding path years ago, and pops up regularly in Feather Brained's pages, and Book Character Bill Holm - the beloved curmudgeon featured in Bob's first three books - brings along his unique brand of caustic wit as Bob's birding sidekick.

Over a period of twenty years, Bob and Bill do their guy-bonding thing over a mutual interest in birds, and a mutual apathy toward their fellow humans. Their friendship is the icing on the critter cake, and with every new book, I look forward to another peek inside their world. They may be on an avian quest, but Bob and Bill are rare birds, too! I urge you to get your copy and check them out for yourself.

That's all for now, Folks! Until next time, please be kind to all the critters!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Helping A Different Kind of Critter

Hi Folks!

My goodness but I've neglected this blog! In my defense, I've been hard at work on Book 3 and I'm hoping I will finish it in the next month or so. I wanted to touch base with you, though, and I was going to write a piece about how we recently brought home a couple more ducks, but something troubling happened today that supersedes my duck story. I hope you'll forgive me that the story is not about animal critters, but rather, human critters.

I was shopping today at my local Maytag's Mart. It's the sort of place that sells groceries, furniture, shoes, seasonal items - in short, it tries to cover all the bases. I went there around 1:00 in the afternoon, and spent far too much money on the junk food I so adore: miniature Heath bars, a box of Milk Duds, and some fruity snack that claims to be good for me but probably isn't. Between the junk food and the cat supplies (litter and expensive food), I managed to spend $50! I stood at the self check-out being mildly appalled, but not so much that I returned any of the goodies to their shelves!

It was as I neared my car that I noticed the one parked right in front of me. It had two small children in it, and nothing else. Frowning, I put the groceries in my car, left the cart next to my parking spot, and got behind the wheel. I sat there for a time, thinking about the fact that someone had left two small children alone in a car, and was at a momentary loss for what to do. Presently, I got out the car and grabbed that shopping cart I'd left nearby, and I pushed the cart past that car, making a point of looking inside as I walked by. There were two young blonde girls, one in the front passenger seat, and one in the back. They'd been left in there with a meal of McFood. I pushed the cart on into a cart corral, and as I walked back to my car, I took note of the make and color of that parent-less car. When I got back into my own car, I dug my phone out of my purse and called 911.

I gave the dispatcher the identifying information on the car (a grey Malibu with a temporary tag on it), told her where the police could find it, and rang off. I started my car and got half-way across the parking lot before I realized that the right thing to do was to stay put and make sure no one messed with those kids. I turned around, drove back to my same spot, and stood vigil, waiting for whoever was going to show up first.

Now, you know how these things go: the shithead never gets their comeuppance, they show up just in time to drive away before the cops get there, leaving you completely vexed at the unfairness of it all, and the shithead completely oblivious to the monumental stupidity of what they'd done. Happily, however, the police actually did show up before the shithead came out of the store. I hopped out of my car, waved the cruiser over to where I was, told the officer that I was the one who had called, and pointed to where the children were. He drove around the parking lot, pulled up next to the grey Malibu and got out.

I heard him ask the children inside how old they were, but I was only able to hear one of them answer: she was six. I got back in my car and waited, not knowing whether the officer would need me for any reason or not. After a couple of minutes, he walked over and we chatted briefly. He told me that one of the children was 10 years old, trailing off his sentence with, "so..." as though 10 was old enough to be left in a car. In this day and age, though, 10 didn't seem old enough to be responsible for one's own safety in a world full of pedophiles and other creeps, and certainly not old enough to be responsible for a six year-old. I trailed off my own sentence with, "still..." as in, "They were still left alone in a car in a parking lot." The officer nodded, and repeated my "still..."

He went on to tell me that while Whoville police had jurisdiction over the Maytag's store, it was actually Northland police who had jurisdiction over the parking lot. He shook his head, acknowledging how ridiculous the situation was, but assured me that Northland police had already been notified. "You're going to wait here until they arrive, right?" I asked. He said he would.

I didn't appear to be needed anymore, so I started my car and drove off across the lot. Except that I have an insatiable curiosity about things, and I wanted to know how this situation would play out. I turned around and drove back to a different parking space, one that afforded me a view without any of the other players knowing who or where I was. It was a good enough vantage point that I turned off the engine and settled in. Twelve minutes after I had originally called 911, the mom came out of the store, pushing a cart full of groceries. There was a minivan blocking my view of mom the shithead (MTSH), but I saw enough of the by-now three cops - two Whoville officers and one Northland officer who had just arrived - to know that they were reading her the riot act, trying to put the fear of God in her.

I had hoped that she would be cited - or, in a perfect world, hauled away in handcuffs - but alas, such was not the case. The officers all headed back to their respective vehicles and slowly drove away, and, happily, the minivan that had been blocking my view pulled out just in time for me to see the look on MTSH's face. Let's just say she was not a happy camper, and, in fact, looked as though she'd readily pay a million dollars to find out who in that parking lot had ratted her out.

It was me, you shithead! I hope you learned something, but I frankly doubt that you did. Just be glad your children remained safe, and that someone cared enough to look out for them.

Especially since it wasn't you.

That's all for now, folks. I hope you'll forgive me if I neglect this blog until I get the new book finished. In the meantime, be well, and please be kind to all the critters!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Horsey Christmas to You!

Hi Folks! Thanks for stopping by!

I want to apologize for being so lazy about posting new blog entries. I'm actually about half-way through writing my third critter book, and I'm saving all my recent stories for that. However, I'm feeling a little merry this holiday season and wanted to share a short story with you.

If you've read my second book, No Better Medicine, you'll know that I lease a horse named Bit. Bit's a stubborn fellow, and a flighty one, too, so I spend a lot of time doing ground work with him. Ground work consists of exercises and tasks that I ask him to do, or teach him, if he doesn't know, and I do this from the ground rather than in the saddle. These tasks help him feel more confident and less flighty. Since Bit's EPM has been acting up lately, I've spent more time on the ground that in the saddle, and I've used the time to take him for longer and longer walks off the property. I'm doing this so that when I do get in the saddle, he'll be more familiar with the places I direct him to go.

In any case, when I'm with Bit, I make up songs and sing them to him, for fun, and hopefully so that he'll pick up on my not-afraid-ness, and feel less afraid himself. During this holiday season, I've been singing him Christmas songs. One of Whoville's local radio stations started playing Christmas songs exclusively before Thanksgiving was even over, and they will continue to do so until the end of December. One of the songs I particularly like (because it's so blatantly greedy!) is called "Santa Baby." Eartha Kitt (for you oldsters) and Taylor Swift (for you young 'uns) have both recorded versions of it, so if you've never heard it (it consists of a woman listing all the expensive things she wants Santa to bring her), you can check it out on youtube.

Yesterday, while Bit and I were walking up the road, it occurred to me that there should be an equine version of "Santa Baby." I worked on that idea during our walk, although I could only manage one verse. If anyone comes up with a second, please feel free to write it in a comment at the end of this entry!

So without further ado, I give you the horse version of "Santa Baby." Feel free to sing it to your equine friends!

Santa Baby,
I'd really like a peppermint stick,
salt lick,
some crunchy apples will do!
Santa Baby,
so hurry to the stable tonight!

That's all for now, Folks! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas/Hannuka/whatever it is you're celebrating, and don't forget to please be kind to all the critters!

See you in the new year!


Monday, September 28, 2015

Cassie the Cat Trainer

Hi folks!

Thanks for stopping by! I have a real treat for you today: Cassandra Morgan, author and cat trainer, has written a guest blog that I think you'll find very interesting. Cat owners will be particularly fascinated to learn that Cassie has clicker trained her cat, Ra. Cassie brings a lot of critter-related experience to her blog entry, and I'm pleased to be able to share her wisdom with you here. So without further ado, here's Cassandra Morgan:

Hello everyone! My name is Cassandra Morgan, and Kelly has graciously let me take over her blog today. I am the author of the YA fantasy Chartile book series, the first being Prophecy that was published earlier this year. The second is slated to be out sometime next summer. However, I am also an avid animal lover, rescuer and trainer. I have worked in the animal industry in some way shape or form for over 10 years. My first job was as a kennel hand at a local dog boarding and training facility when I was 15. I went on to attend a vocational school my last two years of high school for Small Animal Care, and even completed one year of vet tech school. However, it was during vet tech school that I realized I had more of a passion for animal behavior than animal medicine. I began to look for degrees and certifications in feline behavior, but wasn't very successful. But after being in the industry for 10+ years, I have lots of hands-on experience, and I think this is the best kind.

When I first met Kelly, it was at a recent local author event. She asked me, "Do you have any pets?" I nearly laughted at this. Do I have any pets? LOL! I replied with my typical, "Oh yes. I have 5 cats, one of which is a registered therapy cat, who also shows at cat shows where we advocate clicker training to help with behavior problems and building confidence." Apparently, this is the right thing to say to Kelly Meister-Yetter, because we really did have to pull ourselves away from each other to attend to our potential customers at the author fair. She reached out to me later and asked if I would guest blog for her and talk a little bit about my special boy, Little Ra.

Before I tell you about Ra, I need to take a step back. My childhood cat, Snowflake, had only just passed away less than a week before. It had been a struggle taking care of her. She was 17 years old, and had battled with incontinence and dementia issues off and on for 3 years. My beautiful girl died in my arms as the vet tech administered the medicine that would ease her passing, but I knew she was already mostly gone to Summerland at that point. Needless to say, I was both upset and relieved. The few weeks leading up to her passing, Snow had spent a decent amount of time with me, and since I had already made the decision to put her down, we were both cherishing those moments. I think she knew in some way that the end was near for her, whether by her own accord or mine via our vet. I was at peace knowing the cat who had literally saved me from killing myself as a teenager by knocking pills from my hand all over the floor and refusing to leave my lap, was no longer in pain, and was watching over me always. But, of course, I also felt lost. No longer did I have to make special meals each day to ensure that she got enough to eat. It felt odd to not have to get up and search for her every couple of hours to make sure she had not died curled up in a corner. I didn't know what to do with myself. But, I still had 4 other cats, and my husband and I were really okay with not getting another one. We traveled a lot, and 4 cats are a lot of work.

At the time, I worked part time at a pet store that partnered with local rescue groups. They had special space available where rescue cats would stay for a week or so in the hopes that a passerby would fall in love with and adopt them. About 5 days after Snow's passing, a little black and white kitten named Moo caught my eye and my heart. My husband and I went to visit her after work, but the second time just didn't "feel" right.  If you are an animal lover, and I'm sure you are if you're reading this, you will know what I mean. The "connection" I thought was there before, wasn't. We decided to visit every shelter and pet store the next day. And if we didn't find "the one," we were both really okay with that. Again, 4 cats are a lot of work. We entered the last room of the last shelter in the whole city and were about to leave when a volunteer came in. She opened a cage to get a little kitten out when his brother leaped out of the cage and into my arms. We put him back and began discussing the little guy as he shoved his front legs as far through the bars as he could to get to me. The volunteer came back with the other sibling, and the little kitten jumped out of the cage, off the volunteer's shoulder, and into my arms once again. I couldn't say no.

Years ago, I had a cat who had been leash and harness trained, so, the day after we brought Little Ra home, I decided to put the harness on him and see what he would do. Surprisingly, it didn't faze him. I took him to the pet store after I was off work, and the little guy began following me like he was a dog in a past life! At 10 weeks old and no training, this kitten could've bested the famed Australian cat, Didja. At one point during that trip, Ra took off, leading me straight down the center aisle of the store. I had no idea what he had seen. He rounded a corner, and much to the surprise of both me and his mother, and the delight of the little boy, Ra proceeded to leap into the lap of a special needs boy, rubbing and purring, and happy as could be. At that point, I began looking into training him as a therapy cat.

Following in the footsteps and teachings of Australian animal trainer Robert Dollwet (and with the guidance of a good friend who was a dog trainer at a local facility), I started Ra with some basic clicker training. He took to it like a fish to water. Within 2 days, he could sit on command and give a high five. I began using it for some of my other cats, too, since one had been abused before we rescued him, and suffered from anxiety and fear. Miraculously, clicker training didn't just work for Ra, but it worked for the other cats, too!

In February, I decided to attend a local cat show as part of Ra's training. Up until that point, I would take him to as many places as I could. We would  hang out in the waiting room of vet's clinics, visit all the local pet stores, and even once hung out in the waiting area of Tire Man. It was all about exposing him to as many things as I could so he could learn that just because his environment was changing, didn't mean he needed to be scared; and for him to always  pay attention to me, no matter what. At the cat show, people were amazed at how outgoing he was. I brought the stool we used for training sessions, and would get him out to run through his tricks to keep his mind stimulated while waiting for his turn in the show ring. There was a woman from Pennsylvania who owned a pet therapy organization who had heard about Ra. The second day of the show, we went in early so she could meet him. She put him through a series of tests, handed him back to me, and proceeded to tell me where I could find the paperwork to send to her to fill out for his registration. We were, of course, shocked but delighted!

Since that time, Ra has gone to many nursing homes, and had one-on-one visits with special needs children. His favorite is a little boy who brushes him and plays fetch with him to help the boy with his movement development and his hand-eye coordination. Ra still attends cat shows all across the mid-west, where we both work to promote using clicker training and positive reinforcement to help cats with behavior issues. It is my personal belief that if you are told you are something long enough, you will become that. If you believe that your cat is nothing more than a narcissistic couch potato, then that's what they will become. But if you work with your cat like you would your dog, you can build a relationship that leads to a feline who is very confident in themselves and their environment. Good-bye urinating outside the litter box! No more hiding under the bed for an hour if you drop something in the kitchen. And those fly-by attacks to your calves (and, no, I'm not talking about playing)...say sayonara! The bond between human and cat can be just as strong as any between a dog and his human. You just have to work at it. You wouldn't get a dog without the expectation of training it. So why would you get a cat and then simply release it into your home to live out the rest of its' days batting around a catnip mouse, and getting to play with you with a feather wand once in a while? That sounds awfully boring if you ask me. Cats are highly intelligent animals. But much like very smart children who end up doing poorly in school because it's too boring, cats are the same way. If you take the initiative to stimulate their minds (especially when they are very young, as this is a critical learning time for their brains), you will find your next furry feline a far more engaging companion.

To learn the basics of clicker training your cat, I highly recommend checking out Robert Dollwet's YouTube channel, Catmantoo, at www.youtube.com/CatTrainerToo

You can follow the adventures of Little Ra by following his Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/Ankhanra-Pedersen-Little-Ra

And, if you love a good fantasy adventure novel, please check out my book! You can read all of Chapter One and part of Chapter Two for free on my website by visiting: www.authorcassandramorgan.com. My weekly blog is dedicated to giving writers tips and tricks to take their good writing to great.

Thanks again, Kelly, for letting me take over your blog! And I hope this has encouraged a number of you to consider clicker training for your cats.

P.S.: High-five is one of the easiest tricks to start with, and it makes a great summer or holiday break project for parents and young kids to bond.).

* Cassandra Morgan is the author of the young adult fantasy series, Chartile, the first book in the series being Prophecy. Before writing, Cassandra worked in the animal industry for nearly 10 years, where she specialized in feline behavior and feline nutrition. She has worked for a veterinary hospital, groomer, pet store, and canine boarding and training facility. Cassie has 5 cats, one of which is a registered therapy cat and shows in TICA in the Household Pet category.

Cassandra enjoys acting in small indie film productions, and working as an assistant producer. Her team won the 48 Hour Detroit Film Project's Best Comedy award in 2014. She also enjoys historical reenactment with The Society for Creative Anachronism, which has been a tremendous help when researching topics for her books. Cassie enjoys volunteering with a number of rescue groups in her area, caring for orphaned kittens and, volunteering with the local wildlife rehabilitation center.

That's all for now, folks! Thanks again for stopping by! Please feel free to leave a comment below so that Cassie and I know you were here, and as always, please be kind to critters!




Saturday, July 4, 2015

In Memory of Pringles Goose

 Hi Folks,

Thanks for stopping by!

I'm writing today about a subject that I suspect touches a great many of us, the loss of a beloved pet. If you find yourself nodding in agreement with any of the following post, then please leave a comment at the end so I know that I'm not alone.

As if grieving the loss of your own pet isn't bad enough, sometimes, thanks to social media like Facebook, you'll find yourself grieving the loss of an animal you've never even met. Such is the case now with Pringles Gordon.

While I've no doubt that Facebook, and it's predecessor, MySpace, were meant to connect people in a positive way, the fact is that it's brought out the narcissist in all of us. I personally know several people on Facebook who feel compelled to share the minutia of their everyday lives whether we want to know about it or not. Indeed, I'd like to take this opportunity to say no, I'm not interested in what you had for dinner, and the photo you posted along with it doesn't change my mind about that. And you, there, posting that video about the books you just checked out of the library: I don't care!!! Please stop!

But when you love/own/rescue animals, then you have my undivided attention, especially when you start a Facebook page devoted to that critter. Clucks and Ducks mascot Carol Hen? I loved those pictures of her riding shotgun as her owner drove to Starbucks for her coffee fix! And I was saddened to learn of Carol's passing. It's gut-wrenching to me that our critter friends live lives so much shorter than our own, and it never gets any easier when they die, no matter how many times you go through it.

Such is the case now with Pringles Goose. I can't say that Pringles was a close personal friend, but I really enjoyed his posts, particularly when pictures were included. Then, you not only learned what "goositude" was, but you got to see what it looked like, as well! And Pringles was the absolute master of goositude.

Pringles had a rough start in life, having been thrown, as a gosling, from a moving car (and I'd like to know: what kind of asshole throws an animal from a moving car? Perhaps I just answered my own question.). Fortunately, he was rescued and brought to the Carolina Waterfowl Rescue (http://www.carolinawaterfowlrescue.com/residents1.html), where he went on to become the head of his own goose gang. For the next ten years, he enjoyed the company of other geese, and, eventually, found a mate, Annabel, that he clearly loved with all his heart.

But Pringles enjoyed more than just a gang of geese. He relished watermelon with a level of enthusiasm that was equaled only by his love of tomatoes. Indeed, he made frequent pleas for tomato donations on Facebook and, judging by the pictures, a good many fans indulged his requests. It seemed as though everybody - including me - liked  Pringles!

So it was with a large measure of dismay that I followed the progress of his recent illness. It seemed that the vet was having trouble getting a handle on what, exactly, was wrong with Pringles, and then it seemed as though the cure was proving elusive. Many things were tried. Some helped. Others, not so much. Pringles owner Jennifer Gordon posted daily updates and videos, so that his fans might follow the saga, and I was grateful for that.

I had invested enough interest in the situation that I ultimately went looking for those updates, every time I was on Facebook. I cheered, and my quiet optimism surged, while watching the video of Pringles tucking into a bowl of fresh fruit and lettuce while he was still at the vet's: every pet owner knows what a good sign an interest in food is! And when the vet sent him home, I naturally assumed that he was on the mend. How dangerous assumptions can be!

You can imagine my sadness, then, when I read that after a rough day at home, Pringles passed away last night.

Having lost the critter love of my life, I have a pretty good idea of what Jennifer Gordon is feeling right now, and it's brutal. The world keeps revolving on its axis while your own little piece of it screeches to a halt. It's hard to understand how people can keep moving forward with their lives when you are experiencing such blinding grief. Questions haunt you in the small hours of the night: how could this happen? He was invincible! He was the greatest animal in the world! How can he be dead? But there are no answers.

Pringles will be missed. There will be many geese, and many stories to tell about them. But there will only ever be one Pringles. For those of  you who were Facebook friends with him, I encourage you to seek out Jennifer Gordon (https://www.facebook.com/waterfowlrescue) and tell her your favorite Pringles story. For those of you who didn't know him, I encourage you to check out his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pringlesgoose). He was a goose worth knowing!

That's all for now, Folks. Again, please feel free to write a comment below and share your thoughts. Until next time, please be kind to critters!


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What If It Happened To You?

 Hi Folks! Thanks for stopping by!

You may remember the news story back in 2011 about Terry Thompson, the Zanesville, Ohio, resident who released all of his exotic animals and then apparently committed suicide* (please see note at the end of this post). His animals were then hunted down by law enforcement and killed for no reason that ever made any sense to me. These were beautiful lions and rare Bengal tigers who could have been humanely trapped and relocated to exotic animal sanctuaries. Instead, sheriff's deputies killed 48 animals. The devastation was heartbreaking.

After that incident, Ohio's legislators took a long look at private ownership of exotic animals and in 2012, made some changes to State law. The new law imposes an almost total ban on the purchase, sale, or breeding of an array of animals, including lions, tigers, bears, elephants, certain monkeys, rhinos, alligators, crocodiles, anacondas and pythons longer than 12 feet, and all venomous snakes. The new rules included exemptions for zoos, research facilities, and circuses. For the first time, private owners were required to apply for State permits, and had to be in compliance with new State codes that included sterilizing the animals, and meeting minimum standards for cages and care. It all seemed very reasonable in the wake of the Zanesville massacre, but the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) is proving uncomfortably zealous with one specific - and troubling - case, that of Stony Ridge, Ohio, resident and Tiger Ridge Exotics owner Kenny Hetrick.

If you've read either of my books (Crazy Critter Lady, and No Better Medicine, both available on amazon), you might remember me mentioning Kenny the Tiger Guy. Kenny is a local fellow who's been rescuing exotic animals for 40 years. Because lions and tigers eat a lot, people often donate critters to Kenny for slaughter. Usually, it's horses, but the odd donkey has come his way as well. 
The thing I like about Kenny is that he's uncomfortable slaughtering healthy animals. There are, unfortunately, a number of people in the world who give away horses that are perfectly healthy. Sometimes, the owners simply tire of them, and hand them off to Kenny, knowing in advance what he'll do with them. But twice, now, Kenny's conscience has gotten the better of him, and he's called The Healing Barn, asking if they'd be willing to take a donkey. And twice, the Barn has said, "Yes." So far, we've enjoyed a number of years with two distinctly different but entirely lovable donkeys, thanks to Kenny. In addition, I've been to visit Tiger Ridge Exotics, and I can tell you that Kenny's animals have always been well-taken-care-of, and deeply loved, by Kenny, his late wife, and his daughter, which makes the events of January 28th, 2015 so troubling.

On January 28th, in a ODA co-ordinated raid, masked men converged on the sanctuary, tranquilized 11 of the animals - and in at least one case, had to shoot a bear repeatedly with darts before they were able to properly sedate him - and transported them to a new, state-of-the-art temporary holding facility in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. The excuse given for the seizure was that Kenny was not in compliance with the new State regulations. While it's true that Hetrick was over 200 days past the deadline for applying for his State permit, he was already in possession of - and in compliance with - a USDA permit, and USDA requirements. He no doubt assumed that this would buy him sufficient time to become ODA-compliant. Sadly, he was wrong.

The case is currently bouncing around from the local courts - who have ordered the return of the animals, to a hearing presided over by ODA officials who will decide whether to overturn their denial of Hetrick's permit application. In the midst of all the proceedings, the ODA has asked for numerous continuances, although it is unclear what the thinking behind their stalling tactics is.

It's worth noting that the ODA raid on Tiger Ridge Exotics came out of the blue and with no forewarning. While the reason for that may seem obvious - Kenny might've been able to move or hide his animals had he known of the raid in advance - the problem with an impromptu raid becomes clear when it's known that elderly animals who are going to be tranquilized are meant to be sedated on empty stomachs; doing so otherwise poses health risks. Given that Kenny - a longtime owner of exotic critters - took a course on proper sedation methods, you would think that a State agency whose job includes seizing exotic animals would also know about correct sedation methods. Hetrick's daughter, Corinna, was later quoted as saying: 

“They tore cages apart. They tore property apart. They tore all our stuff up out there. They were dragging the animals out in the cold, they were tranquilizing them, and they were slapping them with sticks.”

Corrina added that putting them in the warm [heated] environment in Reynoldsburg was not necessarily a good thing, especially for a bear in hibernation, or an animal that will lose its winter coat. "You know, they're old. You don’t tranquilize an animal like that without just cause,” Corinna said. “You only tranquilize in an emergency situation or for health reasons. That’s like a 90-year-old man going under anesthesia for a broken finger — you don't do it." 

It's also worth noting that at no time did the ODA ask either Kenny or his veterinarian (a well-respected vet who specializes in large critters) whether the seized animals had any special health issues, specific dietary requirements, or prescription medications that needed to be addressed. In fact, the ODA simply took the animals and left. In the time since the raid, the ODA has behaved as though they've already been awarded permanent custody of Hetrick's animals: they have refused all requests by Hetrick and his retinue to visit the animals, and his vet has been denied access to them as well.

Recently, though, in what can only be considered a "courtesy call," the ODA lifted its veil of silence long enough to call Hetrick's vet and inform him of their decision to euthanize one of the animals. Mind you, Hetrick's vet wasn't asked to consult before the procedure took place; the ODA was merely doing a bit of CYA by disclosing the decision. Their reason for that decision: the lion in question was refusing to eat, was having difficulty walking, and, in the words of the ODA, was "shutting down." Let's examine their claims:

Leo was a 19 year-old lion with hip dysplasia. He had never lived anywhere but at Tiger Ridge, in an outdoor enclosure with dirt and grass, and a shelter provided. He was accustomed to eating fresh horse meat, and required a four-times-daily supplement for his dysplasia. After being seized, he was placed in an indoor cell on a cement pad, and he was fed a meat-like nutritional substance but no dysplasia supplement. Are the problems becoming apparent to you yet?

It would appear that the ODA, rather than trying a few obvious changes such as a different diet, and maybe something softer than cement for the lion to lie on, decided that the easiest course of action was simply to euthanize the animal in their care. Did I just use the word "care"? Because that word doesn't seem to accurately reflect the treatment of the Tiger Ridge animals who are currently in ODA custody.

As a writer, and a passionate lover of animals, I felt compelled, after the ODA seizure debacle and subsequent killing of Leo the lion, to take pen in hand and start writing in an attempt to expose the travesty that is still going on as of this blog posting (April 22, 2015). Below, you will see the letter that I submitted to a number of newspapers in my area. Unfortunately, I think that it has proven too inflammatory for most of them, as it has, thus far, only been printed in one paper. Which is why I'm including it in this blog. And while the case involves an Ohio man, please don't think for a minute that your voice in another state doesn't matter. It does! Indeed, if elected officials want to get re-elected, they need the approval of constituents everywhere : what starts at the State level generally ends up influencing the Federal level.

And while I'm all in favor of a tighter rein on exotic animal-keeping, and exotic animal care and welfare, I'm also very mindful of this one question: what if it happened to you? What if masked men invaded your home, took your beloved animals away, and fought vociferously against returning them? And then, while a magistrate was giving the matter some thought, what if they euthanized one of those beloved animals without allowing you to do so much as say good-bye to it, invite your vet to come to the facility and assess the lion himself, or take possession of its ashes after the cremation? So I ask you, after you have read the letter below, please consider adding your voice to the grass-roots effort of Kenny the Tiger Guy and his supporters by calling the ODA and letting them know that their actions in the Tiger Ridge Exotics case are not acceptable. My letter reads as follows:

To the Editor: As if having his beloved animals confiscated on January 28 wasn't bad enough, now Tiger Ridge Exotics owner Ken Hetrick must grieve the loss of Leo the lion, who was euthanized recently by the same entity that took him over two months ago: the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Operating behind a veil of secrecy and a communication blackout, the ODA said only that the lion had stopped eating and was beginning to shut down. 
Refusing to take any responsibility for the lion's declining health, the ODA conveniently left out the fact that they had changed the lion's diet and refused to maintain the hip dysplasia supplement that Hetrick had been giving the lion as per his veterinarian's recommendation. Indeed, not only has the ODA refused to hold itself accountable for a variety of problems with the seized animals, they destroyed the lion's corpse by cremating it in a chemical process known as alkaline hydrolysis. ODA will no doubt claim that this was for reasons of hygiene and public health, but it also destroys any evidence of their wrong-doing in the process. Which makes one wonder what, exactly, the ODA is trying to hide?

This farce must end! Ken Hetrick has held a Federal license, and been in full Federal compliance, for years. ODA in their zeal have chosen to ignore that fact. But if the Federal government is satisfied with Hetrick's set-up, why isn't ODA? Why does the ODA continue to act with secrecy, refusing to have any contact with Hetrick, his lawyer, or his veterinarian? Only an outcry from the public will change this situation. Please consider adding your voice by calling the ODA at 614-728-6201.

That's all for now, Folks. Thank you for taking the time to read about this tragedy. Until next time, please be kind to all the critters! 

* Author's note: It has come to my attention that there is a large contingent of people who believe that Terry Thompson did not kill himself but was actually murdered. I can't comment on this because I have no facts to support the theory. What I can say is that there seems to be a fair amount of mystery about what happened in Zanesville, and that the truth may never be known.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Stuff

Hi Folks!

Thanks for stopping by!

I want to apologize for having been away for so long. My only excuse is that I was busy trying to get my second book finished and published, which it now is. You can get your copy of No Better Medicine - How Caring for Critters Helped Heal the Wounds of the Past at www.amazon.com  No Better Medicine is the follow-up to my first book, Crazy Critter Lady, and it's chock full of fun new critter stories.

Just because I've been away, though, doesn't mean that I haven't been thinking about blog stories. Indeed, I've given a great deal of thought to today's subject, "Stuff," because I've acquired so much of it! So let's delve into the subject of acquired stuff and maybe you'll see a little of yourself in this post!

When I started leasing Bit the horse, almost three years ago, I didn't need any tack or horse-related items such as brushes and combs because The Healing Barn already had them in abundance. Because so many people have come and gone, through the years, they actually have multiples of pretty much everything. Some have left grooming accoutrements, some have left saddles, or bridles, or lunge lines. Just about everything you might need is there somewhere! But along the way, I've found that sometimes, you need a specific thing that the barn either doesn't have, or that belongs to someone who isn't there at the time you want to borrow it. Which is why I've managed to acquire my own complement of Stuff, even though I'm only leasing.

The first thing I decided that I needed was my own grooming kit. I'll admit that the main reason I wanted it - as husband Dud and I were checking out the items on offer at our local western store - was because everything in the set was pink. Bit may not be a girl but I am, through and through, and pink is one of my favorite colors. So Dud bought me the grooming set, complete with pink curry comb, brush, and hoof pick. Later, he bought me a plastic carry-all to put all my pink things in, and that carry-all resides in the trunk of my car when not in use.

Because Bit can be a stinker sometimes, I found that the best way to get him to move when I said move was to use a lead rope with a chain attached to it. The chain goes through the ring in his halter, over his nose, and through the ring on the other side of the halter. This tends to reinforce your commands much better than just hooking the lead rope to the ring underneath the halter. While I suspect that some people are probably a little harsh when using the chain in this way, I'm always very careful not to yank on the lead rope, or do anything else that might hurt Bit. The point is not to injure him, or order him around through pain and fear, but to be carefully firm in backing up my vocal commands. Since Bit is the head of the herd, and therefore somewhat attitudinal about whether he is the boss of our sessions, or whether I am, this reinforcement is necessary. But again, I am very careful not to hurt him in the process.

In any case, the barn only has one lead rope with chain attached; the rest are just rope. So instead of hunting all over the barn to find that one special lead rope, I went back to the western store (called, in case you're interested, Sonseeahray Western Store) and bought myself a nice lead rope with chain extension. It, too, resides in the plastic carry-all.

I should mention that Baby Jack, a small Quarter Horse rescue with neurological issues that make it challenging to put his two back feet where they need to go, accidentally stepped on my plastic carry-all a few times over the years, which meant that I needed a new one. I found the perfect replacement at our local big box do-it-yourself store, in the tool box aisle. It's much sturdier than the plastic carry-all was, and I'd recommend it to anyone who needs a good solid carry-all for their horse-related items.

Once I started trying to train Bit, I realized that I needed for my arms to be a few feet longer. Since it became obvious almost immediately that I wouldn't be able to grow them any longer than they already were, I went once again to Sonseeahray and bought a riding crop. You might've seen old movies on t.v. where the rider used a crop to beat the horse into going faster. While I'm not entirely certain what the usual use is for a riding crop, I did know that there would be no hitting. If I want Bit to go faster, I know several kind ways to get him to do so without scaring or hitting him. The new crop was meant to be an extension of my arm and nothing more.

At the time that I needed longer arms, I was trying to teach him, in the dead of winter when it was too cold to ride, that he needed to stand still next to the mounting block so that I could mount him safely. I must say in hindsight that the crop didn't help the training nearly as much as bringing in riding instructor Connie, who has a degree in barn management from Findlay University. Connie figured out almost immediately what I needed to do to get Bit to do what I wanted, so the crop was retired to the trunk of my car until I started bomb-proofing training a year later. With the remnant of a plastic grocery sack tied to the end, the crop was resurrected as an aid to get Bit moving when he would've much rather stayed put. Again, I did not strike him with the crop, I merely waved it around his hindquarters.

Once we started riding again the following spring, one of the reins that I had laid across his neck fell to the ground. Bit promptly stepped on it, jerked his head, and snapped the leather rein in two. While the reins belong to the barn, I felt honor-bound to replace the one that had been broken on my watch. So back to Sonseeahray I went for a new rein, and while I was at it, I bought a new girth that was much more comfortable (soft, padded rubber) than the one that was already on the saddle (rough rope macrame). I painted my name in pink nail polish on the girth and it, too, resides in my trunk when not in use.

Golly, but that's a lot of stuff! And we're not done, yet, either!

When my original Justin barn boots wore out, I went, yet again, to Sonseeahray for a new pair. The new ones have pink leather and little bits of bling on the sides. Even though my jeans cover those pink parts, I still know that they're there! In addition to new barn boots, Duddy bought my wedding boots at Sonseeahray, too. They're a flashy dress pair (as opposed to the work pair that I don't mind stepping in horse poop while I'm wearing), black leather with designs cut all around them, with hot pink leather in the designs. I wear that pair strictly for dressing up and going out to dinner; the only time they were ever in the barn was the day I got married.

One of my more recent purchases has to do with Bit's girth issues. For the last 12+ months, every time I tried to saddle Bit, he'd get very upset about it. Initially, he'd move around in the cross ties a lot, and paw the ground with his front hooves. This would escalate into squeals and mini bucks. Sometimes, he'd kick the wall. While I worried for my physical safety, I worried more about the reason for his behavior, and the idea that I might be hurting him had me mighty concerned. I consulted barn co-owners Ron, and Wendy, and instructor Connie, but to no avail. No one seemed to have any idea how to fix the problem. And if you can't cinch the girth, you can't keep the saddle on the horse. The only alternatives are not to ride, or to ride bareback.

Since I had very little experience with riding bareback, it seemed like an opportune time to give it a try. Happily, Bit didn't have any apparent qualms about me riding him in such a way; indeed, he stood still and patient while I climbed on and adjusted the saddle pad that I was sitting on. We rode bareback several times before winter reared its ugly head again, and while I did o.k., I also made a mental note that I needed to keep working on balancing myself and generally having a better seat. In the meantime, I discovered the existence of bareback pads and went - yet again! - to Sonseeahray to check them out.

The selection wasn't very big, and to my surprise, the bareback pads all had stirrups and girths attached (meaning we would be back at square one again with another girth). I bought one on clearance - why buy something more expensive when you're just going to putz around with it? - and put it in the trunk with all the other Stuff. Then winter struck and I haven't yet had an opportunity to use it.

The most recent item I bought was a winter riding coat with butt flaps. I'll explain: a number of years ago, when my cheap, crappy barn coat had worn out, I happened to come across a nice Schmidt insulated coat at Tractor Supply Co. The best part: it was bright pink! I promptly bought the matching insulated overalls, too, which made me the butt of innumerable jokes at the barn, given that I now looked like a giant frozen bar of Pepto Bismol! The matching hat and gloves did nothing to offset the look. The coat had a tail that came down below the waistline in the back, which proved useful for those times when I had to bend over or crouch down. But as I got older, and noticed that it was still possible to get a cold draft up the backside, I decided that a longer coat would be more useful, particularly for cold-weather riding. So I started looking around online,

Contrary to what my frugal husband thinks, I don't just get a bee in my bonnet and immediately want to buy something. I have a process, which involves thorough research and a fair amount of time: I want the best possible product at the best possible price. You can't just find that with a small amount of looking. And since the coat I was looking to buy was rather expensive ($200 new), and since I knew that Dud would have a cow at the idea of me buying a $200 coat, I kept looking until I found something marginally cheaper: the coat I wanted at a slightly lower price owing to the fact that it was being sold used on ebay. And, after a fair amount of explaining to Dud exactly why I felt the need to own a coat with butt flaps, I received his blessing in buying it.

The reason I felt the need to own a coat with butt flaps: because it had butt flaps of course! The new riding coat has flaps around the backside that are not only long enough to keep drafts out, but you can snap them closed if you just want to wear the coat out in the world, or unsnap the flaps so that they sort of fan out around your butt, keeping it insulated along with the rest of you. Ordinarily, a shorter coat tends to ride up when my arms are outstretched, which they are when I'm steering my horse. If I want to get more riding in during colder months, a longer coat with butt flaps is the way to go. In addition, I get a major kick out of turning my back to people out at the barn, waving those flaps around and announcing, "Butt flaps!" Nothing amuses the barn urchins more these days than Kelly showing off her butt flaps!

So all in all, I've acquired quite a bit of what the British call "kit," considering that I don't actually own a horse. Still, every single item that I've listed here has served a valuable purpose and continues to feature in one way or another in my work with Bit. I'm sure the list isn't finished yet, either, even though I can't think of anything else I need at the moment. Eventually, something else will present itself, and take up residence in my trunk! In the meantime, if you think of anything I might need, by all means, leave a comment below!

That's all for now, Folks! It's good to be back in the blogging saddle, and I will definitely be back again soon! Until next time, please be kind to all the critters! 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

There's No Such Thing as a Throwaway Pet

Hi Folks! Thanks for stopping by! As promised, here is a guest blog by my friend and author Cayr Ariel Wulff. I hope you will enjoy reading (and learning from) it as much as I did!

                There's No Such Thing as a Throwaway Pet
                              * A Crabby Perspective *

                                              by

                                     Cayr Ariel Wulff


A couple of weeks ago, an animal rescue friend of mine transported two hermit crabs four hours and across state lines to my home in Ohio. She’d seen photos of our crabitat and my frequent posts on Facebook, and she wanted the two crabs to have the best possible life in captivity. That might seem weird to some readers. We’ve all heard stories about dogs, cats, and horses being transported from one state to another, but hermit crabs? A lot of people think of them as “throwaway pets”, but there is no such thing as a throwaway pet.

When a person takes a pet into their home, whether it be a dog, cat, ferret, hamster, or fish, they should be morally compelled to give that pet the best life possible. Unfortunately, the media is full of stories of animal abandonment and abuse, evidence that not every pet owner is so conscientious.

It’s hard to impress a pet’s worth on some people when free-to-good-home ads make pets of all ages and types readily available, or when pets like hermit crabs are given away at fairs and festivals as prizes, or made available in pet stores for only a few dollars. A lot of pet stores perpetuate the attitude that hermies are short-term, “throwaway” pets that live only a few months, but a crab has a lifespan of 20-30 years, if properly cared for.

Hermit crabs, also known as “Tree Crabs” are not native to the United States. At least, not the ones commonly sold in pet stores. They are exotic pets, imported from Ecuador, Australia, or the Caribbean. They are not the same hermies as those found on the shores of Chesapeake Bay. In order to give them a long healthy life, they need to live in a certain type of environment, and that environment isn’t anything like the way they are displayed in most pet stores. I’ve seen them displayed in wire cages or in tanks with only half an inch of substrate, neither set-up giving any consideration to their needs. Keeping a hermit crab in a tiny plastic cage and feeding it a steady diet of food meal is just as unfair to them as keeping a dog in a wire travel crate its whole life. Every pet needs the proper environment and stimulation.

Hermies are tropical pets, and therefore need to be kept warm and moist; their crabitat should have a temperature of between 75-85 °F - and humidity around 70-80%. They need to have four inches of substrate or more, so they can bury themselves completely to molt. They need to have company, because even though they are called “Hermit” crabs, they are very social; in the wild, they live hundreds to a colony. They need to have a selection of shells suited to their size and growth. They need the proper food and water, including a saltwater pool for bathing.

When my partner and I found ourselves the unwitting caretakers of a hermit crab, we didn’t have any idea how to care for it. Our first crab had been a gift to our nephew, who was afraid of the pinching creature and asked us to care for it. Once we started looking into proper care, that single decapod crustacean became the catalyst for outfitting five terrariums of varied sizes and acquiring a small colony, or “cast” of eleven crabs. Their current home is a 35 gallon breeder tank, lined with three types of substrate: coral, sand and eco-earth; driftwood; rocks, vines and plants for climbing; a saltwater pool; a freshwater pool; a tank heater and automatic mister to maintain humidity; and even some toys.

Most of our hermies are friendly. They like to be held and spend just as much time looking out at us as we do looking in at them. By keeping them happy and healthy, we’ve been witness to all sorts of interesting behavior.

Some things you might not know about hermit crabs:
  • They are curious and like to explore
  • They are vocal, and chirp, chitter, and squeak
  • They are smart
  • They are omnivorous and love to try different foods
  • They have individual shell preferences
  • They love to dig and climb
  • When a new crab is introduced into an established cast, it may engage in demonstrations of strength and “arm wrestle” with the ‘home’ crabs.
  • Hermit crabs with too-small shells cannot grow as fast as those with well-fitting shells.
  • Hermit crabs usually never reproduce in captivity. Although hermit crabs have been known to lay eggs in captivity, eggs die quickly because the crab is not able to lay them in a natural habitat.

Just because a pet is small, doesn’t mean it is mindless and disposable. Mice, gerbils, and even hermit crabs have individual personalities. When kept in captivity every animal deserves an environment they can thrive in, in order to enjoy a long, healthy life.

C.A.Wulff is an author, blogger, and animal advocate who uses her writing to spread the joy of the human/canine bond. Her books, Born Without a Tail, and Circling the Waggins; How 5 Misfit Dogs Saved Me from Bewilderness, chronicle her personal journey in animal rescue. Her books, How to Change the World in 30 Seconds: a Web Warrior’s Guide to Animal Advocacy Online, and Finding Fido: Practical Steps for Finding Your Lost Pet, are handbooks for animal lovers. Wulff maintains a personal blog entitled Up on the Woof, where she shares biscuits of dog-related info, and is a Contributing Editor at AnimalsVote.org.



In this video, Leroy changes shells, but continues to also occupy the shell he came out of so it won’t be stolen.

In this video, The World Federation of Crab Wrestling. New crab and “home” crab engaging in feats of strength.


That's all for now, folks! Until next time, please be kind to all the critters! And please leave a comment so that Ariel and I know you were here!

Monday, June 30, 2014

While You're Waiting for a New Post from Kelly!

Hi folks! Thanks for stopping by! As you've probably noticed by now, I haven't blogged in a very long time. I apologize for that and I have no real excuse to offer except that married life is keeping me rather busy! Two bits of good news, though:

1) Cayr Ariel Wulff, author of Born Without a Tail and Circling the Waggins (both great books that I highly recommend), has agreed to write a guest blog entry, and it's about a subject that I have no experience with, which is pet crabs. I've already read her piece and can't wait to share it with you, so check back in the next few days - I'll be posting it soon.

2) In the meantime, my friend and fellow critter-writer Bob Tarte (whose wonderful books Enslaved by Ducks, Fowl Weather, and Kitty Cornered I urge you to read) has allowed me to guest on his What Were You Thinking? podcast yet again. This time, I talk about my experiences with trying to bomb-proof you-know-who (and if you don't know who, then read a few of my blog entries!). You can check it out at this link: http://petliferadio.com/thinking.htmlhttp://petliferadio.com/thinking.html. I'm interview #75.

I hope you're all having a great summer and I hope to get back to blogging soon! Until then, please be kind to all the critters!